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British Airways pulls A380s from Singapore in 2021, Sydney gets the Boeing 787

It's a mixture of good and bad news for cabin products on BA's Singapore and Sydney flights next year, as the carrier reassigns its services to Boeing 777 and 787 operation.

With COVID-19 vaccines in sight and increasing hope that next year can bring with it a decent rebound for international travel, UK carrier British Airways has tweaked its summer 2021 schedules to account for what it no doubt considers to be a realistic expectation of ‘right size’ capacity, as the recovery emerges.

One of the airline’s long-established and relatively rare Airbus A380 routes is between London and Singapore, while its longest direct (albeit not non-stop) flight is between London and Sydney, transiting at Changi in each direction.

COVID-19 has already meant some significant changes to those schedules, not least the suspension of Sydney flights altogether, however this latest schedule update for 2021 sheds light on what BA intends for these cities in the coming year.

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A380s will not fly to Singapore

British Airways suspended Airbus A380 service to and from Singapore in late March 2020, as it did with most other routes and in common with many other operators globally.

British Airways A380s have not been seen at Changi since 29th March 2020

BA will stick to using its Boeing 777-300ER instead of the giant Airbus A380 on all of its regular daily ‘turnaround’ London – Singapore flights in 2021, those being the BA11/12 service.

That’s been the case since these flights were dialled back to four times weekly, though they are scheduled to become daily again from mid-January 2021.

From 11th January 2021

  Days
M T W T F S S
BA11
B77W
LHR
18:45
SIN
15:50(+1)
BA12
B77W
SIN
23:15
LHR
05:15(+1)

Aside from some minor timing differences in the summer season, this schedule continues using Boeing 777-300ER aircraft until the end of the published schedule in November 2021.

That means BA’s Airbus A380s are not currently scheduled to fly to or from Singapore for at least a year. Like many in the world, all 12 of the carrier’s superjumbos are currently in storage.

BA A380 aircraft stored in France

Sydney gets the Boeing 787-9

The daily BA11/12 London service isn’t Changi’s only regular British Airways flight in ‘normal times’.

There’s also a second daily flight (BA15/16), which continues to Sydney. The carrier has fifth-freedom rights on the Singapore – Sydney sectors, also opening up the option to simply fly between the Lion City and Australia in isolation, without continuing to (or originating from) London.

British Airways flies daily services between Singapore and Sydney, in ‘normal times’. (Photo: Paul Carmona)

From March 2021, British Airways is reinstating its (currently suspended) BA15/16 Sydney service using the regular Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, however that plan quickly changes.

From the start of the northern summer season on 29th March 2021, BA switches to operating its four-class Boeing 787-9 aircraft, rather than the Boeing 777-300ER.

From 29th March 2021

  Days
M T W T F S S
BA15
B789
             
LHR
21:30
SIN
17:45(+1)
SIN
19:25(+1)
SYD
06:10(+2)
BA16
B789
             
SYD
15:50
SIN
21:05
SIN
22:35
LHR
05:05(+1)

As with the A380 to Boeing 777-300ER switch, a downgauge on the Sydney route to the Boeing 787-9 is quite a significant capacity drop compared to 2019.

BA Capacity Singapore ⇄ Sydney
  2019
(777-300ER)
2020
(787-9)
Change
First 14 8 42.9%
Business 56 42 25.0%
Premium 44 39 11.4%
Economy 185 127 31.4%
Total 299 216 27.8%

British Airways intends to restart this route next year with around 28% fewer seats on offer than it did at pre-COVID levels. Proportionately, First Class sees the biggest impact, with a cut from 14 to 8 seats, which potentially doesn’t bode well for award availability.

We had a look at Singapore to Sydney award space in First Class next summer and it is indeed quite limited, but in the other direction from Sydney to Singapore there is a swathe of redemption opportunities, including up to five First Class seats on a single flight, in August and September 2021.

First Class award space SYD-SIN in August and September 2021 (pink = available). Source: Reward Flight Finder

If you want to travel from Sydney to Singapore in style next year, hopefully with the ability to also access the excellent Qantas First Lounge for pre-flight Champagne, à la carte dining and a spa treatment, this is a great way to do it for 68,000 Avios on an off-peak date or 80,000 Avios on a peak date.

Business Class is widely available on the Singapore – Sydney route in both directions, at 50,000 Avios (off-peak) and 60,000 Avios (peak), but the Club World seat on the Boeing 787-9 is nothing to write home about.

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Is it good news or bad news?

For both routes, it’s a capacity cut. However, that’s not unexpected given the likely nature of demand recovery in 2021, with IATA forecasting global passenger traffic will not rebound to 2019 levels until around 2023/24.

If you’re booked on a BA flight from Singapore to London or Sydney though, you’re probably more interested in what difference this will make to the cabin product offered.

First Class

For those flying First Class on BA11/12 between London and Singapore, unfortunately this news is probably a downgrade.

The Airbus A380 First Class seats, previously used on this route and initially expected back in 2021, are some 50% larger than their Boeing 777-300ER counterparts, so expect a tighter fit on your ‘downgauged’ flight.

BA’s A380s have the airline’s most spacious First Class seats, but they won’t be flying to or from Singapore for the